Facing Mortality and the Mystery of Death

Death. A subject that some, if not most people dread discussing due to its morbidity. It is interesting how different people think of or approach death as a concept—death as the end of life, death as the beginning of life, death being part of life, and death as a bridge to rebirth.  To explore death in terms of its impact on one’s life brings forth a tapestry of colourful and dark patches that provokes thought about death.  Death from the perspective of the dying, from those left behind, and from the medical and spiritual fields make the concept of death profoundly fascinating and/or disturbing.  Some romanticize it, some view it as extremely tragic, and some exaggerate it to a level of macabre.  No matter how death is viewed, the mystique attached to it perpetually fuels the fascination and trepidation over it.

I just finished watching THE FOUNTAIN (2006), starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, written (with Ari Handel) and directed by Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan).  It primarily explores mortality and how love pushes one to face it. I particularly love the treatment in both writing and cinematography.  It is told in a non-linear fashion with three different stories from three different periods in time, something that is quite interesting especially how Aronofsky managed to achieve convergence and create unification.  As for the cinematography, Aronofsky teams up with Matthew Libatique (fellow Filipino, later re-teamed with Aronofsky for Black Swan) to mount shots of wonderful symmetry, extreme macro shots, and resonating visual motifs from each periods of time that aided in sustaining interrelationships of the three storylines.  Aronofsky also exhibited mastery of the externalization of the psyche, taking the audience into the minds of the central characters played by Jackman and Weisz.  One constant symbol in the entire film is the tree that appears in the three storylines. While it is presented as the tree of life, the context of its existence ranged from historical, spiritual, medical, to supra-natural—embracing the broad spectrum of perceptions about death and breaks the boundaries of science and religion with its ambiguous imagery.

Overall, the combination of non-traditional storytelling and exquisite (but sometimes over-indulgent) cinematography contributes to eliciting a response that relies heavily on the individual’s perception of and experience on facing mortality.  The film may (or will), to a certain degree, provoke you to feel sad, angry, happy, relieved, resigned, hopeful, and even bored depending on your perceptions of and life experiences in confronting death.  But generally, it hinges on the general mystery of death—what it is, what happens after it, and how does one cope with it.

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